10 Things We Learned From Wicked Tuna

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Brought to you by the National Geographic Channel

Besides providing hours of entertainment as top fishermen compete to reel in bluefin tuna that can weigh over a thousand pounds, National Geographic Channel’s Wicked Tuna also packs in some interesting facts. Check out some of the things we learned by watching Wicked Tuna.

1. The biggest bluefin caught in the north Atlantic with rod and reel was a fish taken off Nova Scotia in 1979, which weighed 1,496 pounds.

2. A large bluefin tuna can take about 200 yards of fishing line as it tries to get away from the fishing boat. The fisherman's goal is to gradually slow down the fish, which can swim up to 40 miles per hour at top speed, to three miles per hour.

3. There are many ways to catch bluefin tuna—including handline, harpoon, purse-seine nets, and longlines—but US fishermen overwhelmingly use rod and reel. The fishermen in Wicked Tuna use the rod and reel method, or hook and line fishing. They employ short fishing lines with hooks and specific bait to attract bluefin tuna, one fish at a time. Once they have reeled the fish in, they harpoon it before bringing it aboard the ship.

4. A decade ago, most bluefin fishermen used extremely heavy-duty lines and hooks. In recent years, however, fishermen have switched to lighter-weight equipment—"shy gear," in fishing lingo—which they claim is necessary because bluefin have learned not to go for the gear they previously used.

5. On average, all bluefin tuna populations are estimated to be at about a quarter of 1950s levels. It's important to protect bluefin tuna levels by catching fish responsibly and eating sustainable seafood.

6. The US accounts for about 5% of the global bluefin tuna catch, and over half of the US catch is exported, mainly to Japan. About 3/4 of the global bluefin catch goes to Japan where its fatty flesh is consumed as the highest grades of sushi and sashimi - maguro and toro.

7. The Northern or Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) that the Wicked Tuna fishermen fish for is made up of one relatively small population that gathers annually in the Gulf of Mexico to reproduce.

8. “Cow,” in Wicked Tuna speak, actually refers to a really big fish. For example, “Whoa, you hooked a cow!”

9. In 2013, Kiyoshi Kimura, the owner of a Japanese sushi restaurant chain, paid $1.76 million for the first bluefin tuna of the season at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, which weighed 489 pounds.

10. Wicked Tuna has a new spin-off show, Wicked Tuna: North vs. South, premiering August 17 at 10/9c on the National Geographic Channel. It features four of the northern captains as they go south to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to salvage their finances after a disappointing fishing season in New England. Check out how they fare against the more experienced locals in the unfamiliar and dangerous waters of the Outer Banks.

August 12, 2014 - 7:51pm
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